The Dracae





These are a sort of water-spirits who inveigle women and children into

the recesses which they inhabit, beneath lakes and rivers, by floating

past them, on the surface of the water, in the shape of gold rings or

cups. The women thus seized are employed as nurses, and after seven

years are permitted to revisit earth. Gervase mentions one woman in

particular who had been allured by observing a wooden dish, or cup, float

by her, while she was washing clothes in the river. Being seized as soon

as she reached the depths, she was conducted into one of the subterranean

recesses, which she described as very magnificent, and employed as nurse

to one of the brood of the hag who had allured her. During her residence

in this capacity, having accidentally touched one of her eyes with an

ointment of serpent's grease, she perceived, at her return to the world,

that she had acquired the faculty of seeing the Dracae, when they

intermingle themselves with men. Of this power she was, however,

deprived by the touch of her ghostly mistress, whom she had one day

incautiously addressed. It is a curious fact that this story, in almost

all its parts, is current in both the Highlands and Lowlands of Scotland,

with no other variation than the substitution of Fairies for Dracae, and

the cavern of a hill for that of a river. Indeed many of the vulgar

account it extremely dangerous to touch anything which they may happen to

find without saining (blessing) it, the snares of the enemy being

notorious and well-attested. A pool-woman of Teviotdale having been

fortunate enough, as she thought herself, to find a wooden beetle, at the

very time when she needed such an implement, seized it without

pronouncing a proper blessing, and, carrying it home, laid it above her

bed to be ready for employment in the morning. At midnight the window of

her cottage opened, and a loud voice was heard calling up some one within

by a strange and uncouth name. The terrified cottager ejaculated a

prayer, which, we may suppose, ensured her personal safety; while the

enchanted implement of housewifery, tumbling from the bedstead, departed

by the window with no small noise and precipitation. In a humorous

fugitive tract, Dr. Johnson has been introduced as disputing the

authenticity of an apparition, merely because the spirit assumed the

shape of a teapot and a shoulder of mutton. No doubt, a case so much in

point as that we have now quoted would have removed his incredulity.





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